It’s been great to see so many school districts join the world of Facebook over the past few years as the barriers to getting a page up have slowly been fading away. The shift has moved from “How do we get a page up?” to “What do we do now that it’s up?” I am asked all the time about what kind of content gets posted on Facebook and how often it should be posted and how to get more people to “like” the page.
After testing out what works best for your individual school’s online community on Facebook, I think it comes down to creating an exclusive niche on Facebook. What does this mean? It means don’t just use Facebook to repeat information that is posted on your district website! Facebook is all about engagement and interaction. It should serve as a place where getting response from your loyal “fans” is your top priority. My philosophy when building a Facebook page? Create a niche. Create content that only can be found on Facebook. Give people the opportunity to interact.
Here are five ideas to create a “niche” on your Facebook page:
- Post videos and photo albums (and lots of them) that can only be seen on Facebook. Many times we have the idea that we will post them on our district’s photo site and then share on Facebook (through an RSS feed) that they are now posted on the website. Why not drive more interest to your Facebook page and encourage frequent visits to it by posting video and photos on your Facebook page. And encourage and open up tagging. No better way to spread on Facebook that you have a page than by your fans sharing your photos through tagging.
- Have your school leaders use Facebook to respond to questions from constituents. One school district in Ohio, for instance, has their leaders do weekly video blog interviews posted exclusively to Facebook where they encourage feedback via commenting. This a great way to humanize and make your school leaders approachable and transparent.
- Ask questions! Facebook now has the questions tool that can be used to “poll” your fans, but by just posting questions frequently and asking for feedback and opinions your online community will know that their thoughts matter. Your Facebook page will then be known as a place for people to go to for interaction. You can then use it as a listening post and a customer service tool to gauge where your community stands on issues important to the district. And, they don’t always have to be “serious” questions. Have some fun, keep it light and show your humanity!
- Reward your fans on Facebook. At my former school district we rewarded our staff members and students by naming a Facebook student and staff member of the week nearly every Friday. We rewarded them with t-shirts that said “Staff Member of the Week” or “Student of the Week” and included the Facebook URL on the back of the shirt to promote the page. We then recorded a video interview with them or took their photo and posted that content on the page. This served multiple purposes. It continued to build community offline, it promoted the Facebook page offline, it gave us exclusive content to post on the Facebook page and it encouraged people to be involved in the nomination process. What ways can you reward your Facebook fans for their loyalty?
- Use the page as a newsroom in times of crisis. Yes, Facebook can be more than just light conversation and fun videos. Many districts have realized that the best place to communicate during times of crisis is on the community they’ve built online. A school district in Ohio used it to post video responses from their superintendent during a crisis situation that exploded in the media allowing parents and others to post their opinions and questions and to hear from the district directly instead of getting their information through the rumor mill. In Joplin, Missouri, the school district’s Facebook page became the sole place for getting information after the devastating tornado destroyed all other means of communication. Another district used Facebook to control information and to serve as a place for students to memorialize their classmate when an after school car accident led to the unfortunate death of a student.
These are just five examples of how to make your Facebook page have a unique and stand-alone presence. What other examples do you have? How is your district approaching their use of Facebook for outreach?